The congregation that became Emmanuel Lutheran Church began in 1790, when Reverend Paul Henkel founded the Davidson Lutheran Church in New Market. In 1820 Samuel S. Schmucker, a Yale Graduate became the church’s new minister.
Soon afterwards the congregation split. Like many other Lutheran Churches around the country members struggled to decide if they would follow more conservative, German speaking traditions or accept new, liberal, English services. Pastor Schmucker led the English leaning portion which remained at Davidson, which eventually became St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church.
The German faction followed the Henkel family to form a separate congregation. This group had no church building for almost 25 years. Instead they often met at the New Market Academy, Solomon Henkel’s German school, and other locations. Throughout this time the differences between the two congregations was increasingly heated and confrontations often occurred.
In 1848 this congregation built their first church and named it Emmanuel. It was located on the site of the present church. The Tennessee Synod and the effort to translated The Book of Concord, a work defining Lutheran doctrine, began here.
The second Emmanuel church was dedicated in 1892. Church subscribers donated the $5,664 needed for construction before it began. The church reflects a Byzantine influence. It features numerous arches and rich, vivid stained glass windows dedicated by Paul Henkel. The ceiling was painted with a fresco of the Apostle’s Creed which was repainted in the 20th century after it was damaged by humidity.
Emmanuel also sponsored a parochial school for elementary and high school students from 1913-1926. This organization was originally sponsored by the Tennessee Synod and was named the Shenandoah Lutheran Institute. In 1922 the synod ended funding and for four years the church maintained the school independently.
After 112 years of separation, the two Lutheran Churches reunited in 1932. Differences had been bridged during the 20th century when both groups began to adopt portions of the other’s theology. In addition, many of the personal conflicts that had emerged disappeared when those involved passed.
Twenty-three years later Reformation Lutheran Church was built at the site of St. Matthews. Today Emmanuel is no longer used for regular services but it is maintained for special occasions.